Reinventing Reading Response Journals

As teachers we are constantly REINVENTING THE WHEEL!! Although it can be time consuming, one thing I love about my job, is that I get the opportunity to learn, grow, create, and RECREATE year after year!! I have been using Reading Response Journals in my classroom for over 10 years, and each year I make slight changes in the process, style, and implementation. The Reading Response Journals that I am about to share are a culmination of ideas from the past 10 years!!

I have found that reading aloud to my students is the absolute best way to teach them different strategies and skills. I choose highly engaging texts that get them thinking and practicing those strategies. Reading Responses are a great way for me to see what they have learned and what they are thinking about as we read.

Each day after I read aloud to my students, we discuss different characters, connections, themes, and ideas. Students then write their own ideas in a Reading Response Journal. For me, it is important that their responses include ideas from the story, student thoughts, and evidence to support those thoughts and ideas. In my 4th and 5th grade classes, students are expected to write a short paragraph daily, based on the specific strategy or skill that we might be focusing on that day.

Of course, writing quality reading responses does not always come naturally to students. This is something that I teach very early on, and which I model, and they practice throughout the school year.

To start the year off, I always teach my students different reading strategies and skills from the very first day of school. I choose different picture books to use as mentor texts for each of the different strategies. When I created this resource, I put together a collection of my favorite mentor texts...

I usually stick to focusing on one strategy or skill a day and will use different picture books to model, discuss, and practice whatever that focus might be . During our mini lessons, I will usually introduce a strategy or skill by creating an anchor chart and by having students take notes about the different ideas we discuss. Next, I will read a picture book aloud, modeling and discussing a reading strategy. Afterwards, I work with students to write a meaningful reading response. I ask students for input, but also model the process of writing a thorough and thoughtful response. We usually write all reading responses together for the first two to three weeks of school. I slowly release responsibility as students are ready to write them on their own.

What I love most about my new Reading Response Journals is that they include anchor charts for students to glue right inside their journals. In the past, I have kept anchor charts that we have created as a class, accessible for students to refer to as needed. However, I often found that most of the time, they wouldn't take the time to find and reference the charts. I have also tried making loose-leaf anchor charts for students to keep in their folders, so that they have them handy to refer to. However, I often found that they would misplace these charts. With the charts glued into their journals from the very beginning of the year, they are accessible to students when it's time to write their reading responses.

The nice thing about these anchor charts is that they also serve as divider tabs for students. This helps them to keep their journals neat and organized!!

One of the biggest changes that I made to my reading anchor charts are the Sentence Frames and Sentence Starters for students to use to write their reading responses. Every year, when we first start with reading response journals, I find that my students do not have the language to write thorough and meaningful responses. As I mentioned before, I usually write responses with my students for the first few weeks of school. When doing so, I will often use sentence frames to get us started. However as the year goes on, I have found that students appreciate having sentence frames available. Sentence frames and sentence starters give students a starting place, help them to structure their responses, and gives them the confidence to write responses on their own!!

I always set guidelines for my students when it comes to their reading response journals. This resource is no different. However, instead of an anchor chart that I create at the beginning of the year, and that eventually gets filed away, students have the guidelines right inside their journals.

I am often asked if I grade or score my students' reading response journals. The answer is OF COURSE!! Students put a lot of time and effort into their reading responses, and they are such an important tool for me to see their thinking and understanding as we read. I use a scoring guide each quarter to "grade" students' journals. I will be honest and say that I do not read each and every response. I will usually tell students to choose their five best responses from the quarter and to mark them with a star. Then those will be the responses that I read and score. This process has two major advantages: First, it saves me time. But more importantly, it gives students the chance to read back through their responses and critique themselves as they choose their five best!!!

I am so excited about these Reading Response Journals and can't wait to introduce my new class of students to them in just a few short weeks!! I would love for you to visit my shop on Teachers Pay Teachers to learn even more about them!!

Click HERE to learn more about my Reading Response Journals!!

Also Available for Non-Fiction Texts
Click HERE!!

Looking for more reading ideas for your classroom, follow my reading board on Pinterest!!